Parkinson’s patients searching for answers |

Parkinson’s patients searching for answers

More than 500,000 and as many as 1 million Americans are estimated to have Parkinson's disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. But the inability to pin down the cause of Parkinson's and conflicting studies about how the disorder affects people of different races and genders have combined to leave some aspects of the disease a mystery.

However, in 2012, Parkinson's disease ranked 14th on the list of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's causes of death as of 2010. More than 22,000 deaths were attributed to the disorder at a rate of 7.1 per 100,000 population.

The CDC noted that death rates from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, for example, are increasing moderately primarily because elderly people in general are surviving longer — the rates at which other diseases lead to death in the elderly are in decline, elevating Parkinson's.

"The age-adjusted death rate increased significantly from 2009 to 2010 for five leading causes: Alzheimer's, 3.3 percent; nephritis, 1.3 percent; liver disease, 3.3 percent; Parkinson's disease, 4.6 percent; and pneumonitis, 4.1 percent," the CDC reported.

The Parkinson's Action Network has chided the CDC for not doing more to collect detailed research about the incidence of Parkinson's in American society. What's needed, according to the Action Network, is for the CDC to collect and analyze data at a much more detailed level about the incidence and prevalence of Parkinson's and other neurological diseases.

That kind of study would allow researchers to identify populations that are at high risk, identify any environmental factors and begin to establish prevention strategies, according to the Action Network.